How Big Data Can Help Bolster Ecommerce Strategy in China - eMarketer

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How Big Data Can Help Bolster Ecommerce Strategy in China

September 2, 2015

Jacob Cooke
Web Presence in China

China’s ecommerce industry is growing by leaps and bounds, but it is also a complex market. Web Presence in China, a Beijing-based digital marketing and technology firm, has developed data analytics to help Western brands navigate the online retail market. Jacob Cook, CEO of Web Presence in China, recently spoke to eMarketer’s Lisa Barron about the role of big data.

eMarketer: How are you using technology to decipher the online sales market in China?

Jacob Cooke: We’re delving into analytics and data science. A lot of ecommerce in China takes place on third-party platforms that expose a lot of the transaction records in terms of product reviews, prices that were paid and how many were bought on certain dates. By using programmatic scraping, we are able to grab all of this information. Sometimes there are data points in the hundreds of thousands.

The field that is called big data is really just data science—being able to forecast inventory based on what other people are selling at what time of the year, being able to make accurate price predictions and traffic predictions, and then combining those to understand what your share of the market is going to be before you get here.

eMarketer: How does this data help digital marketers?

Cooke: Instead of being reactive, which is how digital marketing has been in terms of looking at analytics, this allows us to look into the future and plan and create reasonable expectations.

“A lot of ecommerce in China takes place on third-party platforms that expose a lot of the transaction records.”

One of the companies we worked with this year was lululemon [athletica]. Their competition is easyoga, Nike and Adidas. Because so many of the transactions take place on third-party platforms, we are able to download hundreds of thousands of transactions and map exactly how many smalls, mediums and larges are moving and at what rate they’re moving. We’re looking at the price points, looking at the annual revenue and then breaking that down even further in terms of seasonality. We’re also looking at how much of that revenue is discount-driven. We see a lot of big numbers coming out, but the reality is that a lot of that product is sold at a loss.

eMarketer: What do you say to a foreign brand or company wanting to expand their business into China?

Cooke: The first thing is that we’re going to look at data analytics. We want to look at the entire marketplace for their particular product or service, know exactly who their competition is, what the price point is and be able to present this data back to the potential market entrants so they can decide if they can compete in this market. Sometimes we run through this process and people decide it’s not possible to compete with the price. That’s a fairly cheap way to come in and do the analysis and realize it’s not going to work for you. Other people decide it does make sense. They can produce at the right price point and there’s enough of a margin. But you do need to take a deep, hard look at the market using data science to make those decisions.

eMarketer: What are the best digital marketing practices in China?

Cooke: We look at five verticals. There’s organic search, pay-per-click advertising, banner ad campaigns, social media and the content that exists, basically content marketing.

All of these tactics exist at different points in the funnel. Pay-per-click and SEO [search engine optimization] are bottom of the funnel tactics. Banner advertising and content are more top of the funnel. And we use social for engagement.

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